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Trump asks Moon for medical supplies

Leaders held first phone talks this year on combating virus

Mar 26,2020
U.S. President Donald Trump in a phone call with Korean President Moon Jae-in Tuesday requested medical equipment support from Korea as the leaders discussed coordinating efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Blue House Wednesday.

Moon replied that the Korean government would provide “maximum support” if available, according to Blue House spokesman Kang Min-seok in a statement, as the two leaders shared concerns over the global spread of the virus in a 23-minute conversation.

However, Moon was said to have pointed out that U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval might be required, believed to be in reference to coronavirus test kits, to which Trump replied that he would immediately take measures that day.

This marked the two leaders’ first call this year and came at the request of President Trump.

Trump showed interest in the trend of coronavirus infections in Korea and said the country is “doing very good,” according to the Blue House.

Moon also said that the $60 billion currency swap deal between the two countries last week was a “very timely measure” to help stabilize the international financial market.

Leaders of the Group of 20, or G-20, major economies are scheduled to hold a video conference summit on the global coronavirus response, chaired by Saudi Arabia, on Thursday.

Moon said that a “unified message by leaders is important” and said that he hopes for in-depth discussions on international cooperation to guarantee trade and activities of businesspeople, within the extent that it doesn’t hinder countries’ quarantine efforts, “in order to minimize a negative impact on the global economy.”

A White House spokesman in a statement on the conversation said that the two leaders “discussed their nations’ respective efforts to combat the pandemic” but did not mention support on medical equipment.

The White House added that Trump stressed his commitment to employ the “full weight” of the U.S. government” to “work with global leaders to save lives and restore economic growth.”

Moon also had phone talks on the global coronavirus situation with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Later Wednesday, Moon said during a visit to Seegene, a Korean biotech company that develops Covid-19 testing kits in Songpa District, southern Seoul, “President Trump requested for speedy support on quarantine supplies including testing kits.”

Korea’s response to the spread of the coronavirus involved extensive and speedy testing, quickly tracing contacts and transparent dissemination of information, paired with public trust and cooperation.

A senior Korean Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday that so far 47 countries have asked about Korea’s testing kits or expressed wishes to import them. Korea has exported test kits to three countries so far-50,000 extraction kits to the United Arab Emirates, 20,000 diagnostic kits to Romania and 50,000 diagnostic kits to Colombia. Thirty-nine countries have requested for humanitarian support from Seoul, though the official said it may be difficult to accept all requests.

As of Wednesday, Korea has over 9,100 confirmed patients, mostly in the Daegu and the North Gyeongsang region, and 126 deaths, lower than other countries with a high number of cases, with a fatality rate of 1.38. Korea has generally seen a slowdown in cases in the past week and has tested over 357,000 people - around 15,000 per day.

U.S. experts and officials have referred to the Korea model as a reference for flattening the curve, with a slowdown in cases over the past two weeks. The United States has struggled with a lack of testing kits from the onset and state governors and health experts have also warned of a shortage of medical supplies including masks and ventilators.

Confirmed cases in the United States have spiked with increased testing, with over 55,000 reported coronavirus patients and over 700 deaths as of Wednesday.

Trump touted U.S. testing numbers during a White House coronavirus task force press conference Tuesday and said, “In eight days, we’re doing more testing than [Korea has] done in eight weeks. That’s a tremendous turn.”

The task force said that the United States has 370,000 tests and conducted over 220,000 in the last eight days.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]


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